The Colbert Record: Grading the Steelers 2012 Draft, B-

The with 2017 NFL Draft in the books, it is now time to turn our attention to grading Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin’s performance with the Steelers draft class.

  • Of course, we’re talking about grading the Steelers 2012 Draft Class here.

The question of when a draft class is ripe to grade is an interesting one with no definitive answer. Same day draft grade border on inane, as Ike Taylor and the Steelers 2003 Draft Class demonstrates. Year after draft grades certainly aren’t much more helpful either.

After the rookie years of Sean Davis, Artie Burns and Javon Hargrave, the Steelers 2016 Draft Class is looking pretty smart. But the same could be said in May 1990 about the 1989 Steelers Draft class, which had its gems but also a lot of fools gold.

The Steelers 2011 Draft Class seems to make a solid case for why you really need to wait five years to grade a draft class, and while others may quibble, we’ll stick with it grade the Steelers 2012 Draft Class.

David DeCastro, Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers 2012 first round draft pick

David DeCastro blocking for Ben Roethlisberger. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Chuck Cook, USA Today via kickoff coverage.com

 

Steelers 2012 1st Round Pick – David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford

When a highly rated prospect falls in the first round of the NFL Draft, it usually for two reason. First, some sort of off the field issue, be it true or not, surfaces and prospective buyers shy away. Second, sometimes one team will make an unexpected pick or trade scrambling everyone else’s draft board.

Going in to the 2012 NFL Draft, David DeCastro had been rated very highly, some experts had him in the top then. But then a run started on defensive lineman, and DeCastro continued to fall. The Steelers didn’t hesitate to pick DeCastro, and haven’t looked back since.

David DeCastro started as a rookie, although he lost most of that season ton injury, but was a full time starter by 2013. By 2014, DeCastro was establishing himself as a force on the field, and showing that streak of nasty that makes offensive lineman great. By 2015, David DeCastro had done well enough to see the Steelers exercise their 5th year option on him and eventually sign him to a long term deal.

For what it is worth, the NFL Network is rating DeCastro as the 97th best player in the league. Grade: Quality Value Pick (trending toward Grand Slam).

steelers, draft, grades, evaluations, bust, Kevin Colbert

True NFL Draft grades only come with years of hindsight

Steelers 2012 2nd Round Pick – Mike Adams, Tackle, Ohio State

Mike Adams provides the perfect example of a player who fell for kind of reason. In his case it was a failed drug test at the NFL Combine. The Steelers knew about this, and took them off their board because of it.

  • Mike Adams of course worked his way back into the good graces of Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin.

The Steelers took him admitting that there are risks with every pick. The easy evaluation, based on the disaster that was Mike Adams starting at left tackle, is that the Mike Adams pick was a bust. That’s a tempting conclusion to take, but it is not quite accurate.

  • People forget that Mike Adams started 6 games (per Pro Football Reference’s count) at right tackle in 2012 and played fairly well.

HE also made four starts at right tackle in 2014 and again he performed well. 2015 was lost to injury. OK, if you pick a man in the a tackle in the second round, and you project him as a left tackle, you expect more than 10 good starts at right tackle out of the player.

But the Steelers did get some value out of Mike Adams, it just wasn’t enough. Grade: Disappointment

Steelers 2012 3rd Round Pick – Sean Spence, Inside Linebacker, Miami

This pick perhaps illustrates just how much of a factor luck plays in forming a successful NFL Draft. The Steelers drafted Sean Spence with an eye towards replacing Larry Foote. All indications in training camp and preseason were that Spence was capable of being that player.

  • Then disaster struck, as Sean Spence suffered what could have been a career ending injury during preseason.

The Steelers kept Spence on injured reserve for two years, and in the meantime drafted Vince Williams and Ryan Shazier. Spence returned to full health in 2014 and functioned effectively as “The Next Man” up starting 13 games over the next two years.


Sean Spence after forcing a fumble in Steelers 2014 win over the Houston Texans. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire, USA Today Steelers Wire

Who knows how good Sean Spence would have been had not been injured? How well would have he would have played during 2014 and 2015 had Shazier not forced him to the bench? Will never know the answer. All indications are that Colbert and Tomlin made the right pick with this selection, but unfortunately due to no one’s fault, injury prevented the Steelers from recouping its full value. Grade: Serviceable Pickup

Steelers 2012 4th Round Pick – Alameda Ta’mau, Nose Tackle, Washington

Note to Kevin Colbert: Next time you think of trading up to grab someone in one of the middle rounds, don’t pick a guy that is getting KOed on highlight films by your first round pick.

Because that’s exactly what the Steelers did in 2012 when they traded up to get the “last pure nose tackle in the draft” even though one of David DeCastro’s highlight reels included him totally dominating
Alameda Ta’mau.

That didn’t stop some pundits from predicting that Ta’Mau would become Casey Hampton’s heir apparent. Instead Ta’Mau became best known for his South Side drunken rampage, where only by the grace of God no one got seriously injured.

The Steelers didn’t cut him immediately, but he was gone by year’s end without playing a down and played in 14 games for Pittsburgh West over the next two season. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2012 5th Round Pick – Chris Rainey, Running Back, Florida

Unlike Ta’Mau who had a previous alcohol incident that the Steelers knew of but was not public knowledge, Chris Raniey brought a checkered history to Pittsburgh. However, the Pouncey family vouched for Rainey and the Steelers gave him a chance.

  • Chris Rainey was supposed to be a utility back for the Steelers – a small speedy back who could come out of the flat to spread the field.

As a running back Rainey saw spot duty in 2012 and had a respectable rushing average, and he also caught 14 passes on 22 targets which is also respectable, although he never showed any of that field stretching ability. Rainey had a minor run in with the law late in the season, and then his name popped up in the police blotter for domestic violence in January.

The Steelers cut their losses immediately and sent Rainey packing. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2012 7th Round Pick, A – Toney Clemons, Wide Receiver, Colorado

Toney Clemons never caught on with the Steelers, but he did play four games in 2012 for the Jacksonville Jaguars and was never heard from again. Grade: Farm Team

Steelers 2012 7th Round Pick, B – David Paulson, Tight End, Oregon

Fans will remember David Paulson for his dropped pass in the Steelers road loss to the Bengals in the second game of the 2013 Steelers 0-4 start. And yes he should have caught that, and yes it could have been a difference maker.

  • But David Paulson was a number 4 TE playing as a number 2 TE.

All told, David Paulson had 13 catches on 21 targets over 32 games for the Steelers. Those are hardly Mike Mularkey numbers, let alone Heath Miller type stats. But not bad production from the 240th man taken in the draft. Grade: Quality Value Pickup

Steelers 2012 7th Round Pick, C — Terrence Frederick, Cornerback, Texas A&M

Terrence Frederick never made caught on with the Steelers but played 5 games in 2012 and 2014 for the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints. Again, not bad for a 7th round pick and not a bad way to pocket six figures before starting your “Life’s Work.” Grade: Farm Team

Steelers 2012 7th Round Pick, D – Kelvin Beachum, Tackle, SMU

If most NFL General Managers would be forced to confess, when they get to the 248th pick of the draft they’re probably thinking, “If this works out well, he’ll land on the practice squad.” You don’t pick a man that late and expect him to play seven games for you that year, let alone start 5.

Yet that’s what Kelvin Beachum did for the Steelers as a rookie. There weren’t many bright spots for the Steelers offense on the backend of 2012, with Ben Roethlisberger’s injury to Young Money going broke, to the three headed implosion at running back.

But Kelvin Beachum was a true bright spot for the Steelers, as he went on to save the Steelers season in 2013 by stepping in at left tackle, and established himself as a legit starting left tackle in 2014. Grade: Grand Slam

Grading the Steelers 2012 Draft

Only David DeCastro remains of the Steelers 2012 Draft Class and by many measure’s that’s bad, because in theory this is when your draft picks should in their prime, hitting their stride. And when that happens, a team wins. See the roles the Steelers 2002 Draft Class played in winning Super Bowl XL.

  • But the 2011 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement’s rookie salary cap altered that calculus a bit.

By essentially mandating that every NFL team devote the same portion of his salary cap on its draft class, it raised the marginal value of the production a team gets out of its draft picks during their rookie contracts.

Viewed in that light, the Steelers got excellent value out of David DeCastro and Kelvin Beachum. They also got solid contributions from the Sean Spence and even got “Something” out of Mike Adams and David Paulson. Unfortunately are weighed down by the loss of value of Ta’amu and Rainey and the draft pick they used to get Ta’Amu.

All told, Steelers 2012 Draft Class had a “Good But…” quality to it, and that’s why we’re grading out with a B-.

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Steelers Concern for Ladarius Green’s Headaches Reveals NFL’s Changing Concussion Culture

Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com, the same Aditi Kinkhabwala who tried to claim she’d predicted the Steelers dismissal of Jack Bicknell and then stone walled when Dejan Kovacevic challenged her on it, dropped another bombshell:

When Heath Miller suddenly retired following the 2015 season, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin didn’t blink an eye and immediately went out and signed Ladarius Green from the San Diego Chargers. The decision to sign Green was uncharacteristic for the franchise, but the move immediately bolstered a weak spot on the depth chart, and freed to Steelers to focus on defense in the 2016 NFL Draft.

  • Since then Ladarius Green has done little except jog during spring practices and at St. Vincents.
ladarius green, steelers tight end, ladarius green concussion, ladarious green headache

Ladarius Green’s headaches have kept him from practicing, per an NFL.com report. Photo Credit: Associated Press, used on Yahoo! Sports

Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell has been on top of the story, asking early in training camp if the Steelers were facing “Chaos at Tight End” and then upping the ante two weeks into camp by describing the Steelers “Looming Crisis” at tight end. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette followed with a similar story shortly after Wexell published his.

  • The Steelers have claimed on the record that they knew of Green’s ankle injury and even realized that he could possibly begin the season on the PUP.

However, Kinkhabwala’s story, if confirmed, drastically alters the situation with Green.

Aditi Kinkhabwala quotes Green’s agent, Adisa Bakari as saying that Green’s ankle is fine, and reminds readers that Green has been seen sprinting on open fields at St. Vincents.

Impact of NFL’s New Concussion Consciousness

If Kinkhabwala’s report is correct, it carries serious consequences for the Steelers. Matt Spaeth failed a physical and is out of football, leaving Jesse James, David Johnson and Xavier Grimble as the Steelers top three tight ends.

Jesse James looked good as a rookie last year, but he only caught 8 passes, one more than David Paulson, a rookie who “looked good” in 2012 and then flamed out into nothing.

While one might be tempted to gloss over the importance of tight end, the Steelers opened 2013 by starting their number 3 tight end (David Johnson) and went 0-4. Yes, tight end play was only a small part of the 0-4 start, but the Steelers offense didn’t really get humming until Matt Spaeth returned in December.

  • But what’s bad for the Steelers offense, ultimately might confirm that the NFL has turned a corner on concussions.

The Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion during the January 1st 2011 NHL Winter Classic and saw his symptoms linger for more a year beyond the initial event and was characterized several false starts an set backs.

At the time, someone, whose name now escapes memory, reminded everyone that this is not abnormal for people who’ve suffered concussions and questioned why NFL players never missed more than a few weeks with a concussion.

  • According to Eric.O’Connell of Behind the Steel Curtain, Ladarius Green suffered two concussions in 2015 as well as another in 2014.

In the not too distant past, Ladarius Green’s headaches very well would have been met with either an implicit or even explicit pressure to “Tough it out” assuming Green mentioned his headaches to coaches in lieu of keeping them to himself, as Hines Ward suggested Ben Roethlisberger should have done back in 2009.

Neither the Green or the Steelers are going that route, and that is a positive sign of how the NFL’s culture on concussions is changing.

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X-Factors Cloud Steelers Choices on Free Agent Kelvin Beachum

Of all the free agent choices the Pittsburgh Steelers must make in 2016, perhaps none is surrounded by as many X-Factors as the decision they must make on soon to be free agent left tackle Kelvin Beachum.

Capsule Profile of Kelvin Beachum’s Career with the Steelers

The next time someone tells you that 7th round picks are worthless, remind them of Kelvin Beachum’s story. The Steelers drafted Beachum in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft, making him one of 4 7th round picks that season.

All of the other picks washed out, save for some limited contributions from David Paulson, but Kelvin Beachum began paying immediate dividends. As a rookie Beachum appeared in seven games and started in five, making his first start in the Charlie Batch led Steelers road upset over the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.

Beachum tarted the final 5 contests at right tackle for the injured Marcus Gilbert, and heading into his sophomore season, the Steelers plan was to use Beachum as a 3rd tight end and backup at all five offensive line positions….

….That plan did not live past the Steelers first series, as an inadvertent David DeCastro collision with Maurkice Pouncey cost Pouncey the season, and Beachum was there playing center for the first time in his football life.

Fernando Velasco’s arrival alleviated freed Beachum from his duties at center, but Steelers coaches quickly began rotating him in with Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert in an effort to shore up the Steelers porous pass protection.

Following the Steelers loss in London to the Vikings, where Jared Allen tormented Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers benched Mike Adams and installed Kelvin Beachum as their starting left tackle, where he would not miss a game until tearing his ACL in the Steelers win over the Arizona Cardinals.

The Case for Steelers Keeping Kelvin Beachum

The Steelers wanted to extend Kelvin Beachum’s contract before the 2015 season began, but the two sides could not reach an agreement. In doing so, Beachum probably sacrificed several million dollars of signing bonus. Clearly, the Steelers coaches like Beachum.

Alejandro Villanueva stepped in as the starter, and while he struggle, he improved down the stretch, and gives the Steelers a more prototypical left tackle at a bargain rookie contract rate. The Steelers plan was to resign Beachum and move him to guard, but Beachum is ruling out a move to guard.

If salary cap considerations could be ignored, the Steelers could probably sign Beachum to a reasonable contract, given his injury status, and have Villanueva play as a swing tackle. But the Steelers salary cap situation does not give them that kind of flexibly.

The Case Against Steelers Keeping Kelvin Beachum

If the Steelers believe that Alejandro Villanueva is a long term starter at left tackle, then it is impossible to make the case that the Steelers should resign Kelvin Beachum as a tackle, and if he does not wish to play guard, then there really is no place for Beachum on the 2016 Steelers.

Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Kelvin Beachum

How serious is Kelvin Beachum when he says he will not move to guard for the Steelers or any other NFL team?

That really is the operative question. His language was clear and unequivocal, but quite frankly this is exactly what prospective free agents are supposed to say.

Even if Beachum meant it when he said it, there’s no assurance that some NFL team is going to offer him the type of starting money as a left tackle that he wants, not when he’s coming off an ACL tear. If that happens an offer from the Steeler to play guard could suddenly get more attractive.

But if the Steelers allow both Ramon Foster and Kelvin Beachum to reach free agency, they are taking a huge gamble with their left guard position heading into free agency.

Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin rarely base their personnel decisions out of fear, they opened free agency in 2009 by cutting Kendall Simmons and without either Chris Kemoeatu or Trai Essex under contract, so change in the Steelers offensive line could very well be in the air.

Free agency go your head spinning? Check out our Steelers 2016 free agent tracker and/or click here to read all articles on our Steelers 2016 Free Agent Focus section. 

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Steelers 7th Round Compensatory Pick History

The Pittsburgh Steelers will receive a 7th round compensatory draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Compensatory draft picks were byproduct of the first CBA that came in the wake of the Freeman-McNeil verdict, which brought free agency to the NFL.

The NFL has never released the formula it uses to determine compensatory draft picks, but it is based on the difference between the number of players a team lost, where they were drafted, and how large a contract they signed for vs. the number of players a team signs and the contract value of those signings.

In a nutshell, when you balance the losses of Emmanuel Sanders, Al Woods, Ziggy Hood and Jerricho Cotchery against the signings of Mike Mitchell, Lance Moore, Cam Thomas, Brice McCain, and Darrius Heyward-Bey the Steelers merit an extra 7th round pick.

  • Getting an extra 7th round pick might seem like a kid getting an extra fireball added to a Halloween basket, but it is nothing to scoff at.

Yes the Steelers have certainly cut more 7th round picks, compensatory or not, than they’ve either added to the roster or even the practice squad. But there have been exceptions and the Steelers 7th round compensatory pick history shows this is hardly an empty gesture.

Notable 7th round picks during the Kevin Colbert era include:

  • Kelvin Beachum, currently the team’s starting left tackle
  • David Paulson, who made the roster as a rookie and played another season
  • David Johnson, who made a career as a hybrid tight end/fullback
  • Brett Keisel, a man whose contributions to the Steelers need no elaboration

Of the quartet, only Brett Keisel was a pure 7th round draft pick. Beachum was a 7th round compensatory selection as was Paulson and so most likely was Johnson.

During every NFL Draft there are good players to be found in every round. The Steelers are unlikely to find a future star, immediate starter, or even immediate back up with their 7th round compensatory selection, but Kevin Colbert’s record shows he can find value even at the tail end of the draft.

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The Case for Resigning Steelers Tight End Michael Palmer

Shall the last be the least? Steelers tight end Michael Palmer is the last unrestricted free agent profiled in our Steelers 2015 Free Agent Focus. Does that mean that Steelers tight end Michael Palmer needs to begin his “Life’s Work?” Not necessarily. In fact, there’s a real case to be made the the Steelers should resign this free agent tight end. Let’s look at why.

Capsule Profile of Michael Palmer with the Steelers

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert will not look back in the Steelers 2013 training camp fondly. Salary Cap purgatory had forced him into pulling off the NFL personnel man’s variant of the loaves and the fishes, populating the ranks of the Steelers back up offensive lineman with the Guy Whimpers of the world.

  • Heath Miller was returning from an ACL injury. So was tight end David Johnson. And that was before the new injuries started.

Undrafted rookie free agent offensive lineman Nik Embernate’s shot at NFL glory ended before it began. Plaxico Burress injured his shoulder, meaning second Steelers stint would consist of 4 games and 3 catches. Le’Veon Bell injured his lisfranc. So did Matt Spaeth.

  • That left David Paulson as the Steelers number 1 healthy tight end.

Colbert took to the wavier wire, and brought in Michael Palmer, whom the Atlanta Falcons had recently cut. At the time Palmer was little more than a body, someone to hold space in practice.

  • But Palmer not only did enough to make the team, he played well enough to weather the activations of both Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth.

The Steelers brought Palmer back to camp a year later, and few predicted he would make the final roster. Except Palmer did make it. Not only did he make the final roster, but he scored the Steelers only offensive touchdown in Pittsburgh’s narrow victory over Jacksonville.

The Case for Steeler Keeping Michael Palmer

The Steelers have Miller and Spaeth, and by all accounts will target tight end high in the 2015 NFL Draft, as they should. They also have 7th round pick Rob Branchflower from the 2014 NFL Draft.

  • That doesn’t appear to leave a lot of room for Palmer.

And it doesn’t. But Palmer wasn’t supposed to make the team in 2014. Yet he beat out Branchflower and Paulson. The Steelers should be able to get Palmer at a low or even no risk veteran minimum deal. They have nothing to lose by bringing him back to camp.

The Case Against Steelers Keeping Michael Palmer

The case against the Steelers keeping Michael Palmer comes down to roster spots. Keeping Palmer means another promising player, either at tight end or at some other position of need, say outside linebacker, is going to have to need to be sacrificed.

  • If the Steelers resign Palmer, they’ll likely have to pay a him a bonus, even if it is a small one.

The bonus won’t ensure him makes the 53 man roster, but will mean that he comes to Latrobe, at the cost of some other young man’s chance to prove himself on the fields of St. Vincients. That’s too high of a cost.

Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Michael Palmer

“Fate of Steelers tight end Michael Palmer” isn’t exactly on everyone’s tongues in Steelers Nation. And, as we said yesterday regarding Ben Tate, no should it be.

  • But as Dale Lolley mentioned, Palmer is the type of player you look and think you’ll cut, but at the end of it all, he does just enough to warrant a roster spot.

There’s something to be said for the resiliency of guys who make their career’s working as the 52nd and 53rd men on NFL rosters. Michael Palmer’s one of those, and he’s earned a shot at least defending that status. Bring him to St. Vincents for one more summer and, in the words of Mike Tomlin, “Let the play speak for itself.”

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Chris Carter, Guy Whimper, Headline Steelers Cuts

The Pittsburgh Steelers cut 22 players today to get down to the NFL-mandated 53 man roster limit. The move included veteran Chris Carter whom the Steelers picked in the 2011 NFL Draft joined the team in 2011. Gerry Dulac had once touted Chris Carter as the steal of the 2011 draft. Alas, that never materialized.

Other names worthy of an eyebrow raise are Guy Whimper, who’d been rumored to be contending with Mike Adams for the 3rd tackle spot, Derek Moye, who held a roster spot during 2013, tight end David Paulson who started 2013 as the Steelers number two tight end.

  • Isaiah Green, who spent much of 2013 getting cut, signed to the practice squad, and cut again, was also released.

Draft Picks Saquille Richardson, Rob Blanchflower also got visits from The Turk, as did 2013’s 7th round pick Nick Williams and 2014 training camp stand outs linebacker Howard Jones and Josh Mauro.

Beyond that, the NFL dream ended (or at least got put on hold) for these other players:

Tight end Bryce Davis, defensive backs Dayonne Nunley, and Ross Ventrone, running backs Josh Harris and Stephen Houston. Defensive linemen Ethan Hemer and Roy Philon, linebacker Dan Molls. Wide receiver Lanear Sampson. Offensive linemen Will Simmons, and Graham Pocic. The Steelers also cut quarterback Brendon Kay.

Brown, Jones Make the Grade

Contrary to popular speculation, the Steelers did not decide to cut second year quarterback Landry Jones, although Jones struggled mightly through his second preseason. Justin Brown, a fellow member of the Steelers 2013 Draft Class, also made the team.

More Moves to Come

At the moment the Steelers are keeping Brad Wing as their punter, although Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert could very well be watching the wavier wire in search of a better option. The Steelers decision to sign B.W. Webb shows they’re ready to make other moves.

And the team must now fill out its practice squad, which it can do once all of the release players clear waivers.

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Steelers Close 2014 NFL Draft Taking UMASS’ Tight End Rob Branchflower

There were more than a few rumors that had the Steelersbeginning their draft by selecting tight end Eric Ebron. Whether those were true or simply off the mark punditry like so much else, the Steelers never got their chance, as Ebron was taken well before the Steelers got a shot at Ebron when the Detroit Lions took him.

But if the Steelers didn’t begin the 2014 NFL Draft taking a tight end, they ended it by taking one, when they took Umass’ Rob Blanchflower in the 7th round.

While Branchflower only had 27 catches for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2013, that was enough to get him a YouTube highlight video:

If nothing else, Branchflower does seem to know what to do when the unexpected occurs.

The top of the Steelers depth chart at tight end does appear to be is settled with Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, but Branchflower will most certainly be given a shot at unseating third tight end David Paulson, who is over performed expectations during his rookie year in 2012 and under performed in 2013.

Welcome to Steelers Nation Mr. Branchflower.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Draft Needs: Tight End

Part II of Steel Curtain Rising´s analysis of the Pittsburgh Steelers needs in the 2014 NFL Draft brings us to the position of tight end.

  • Tight end is a position area where the Steelers situation is straight forward, but with a twist.

In Heath Miller the Steelers have one of the NFL’s top all around tight ends and one of the most underrated players in football. Some would say that Miller, with his ability to both be an asset in the blocking game and act as a threat down field is part of a dying breed.

Miller, who played a key role as a rookie in Steelers upset win vs. the Colts in the ’05 playoffs, is now 31 and turn 32 during the middle of the coming season. Miller was coming off of a knee injury in 2013, and if his return boosted the Steelers sagging fortunes, he was at times shaky. But Rod Woodson would attest, ACL injuries take more than a year to heal.

  • The Steelers extended Miller for 3 years, and you can count on him to finish that contract.

Behind Miller the Steelers have Matt Spaeth, who returned along with William Gay as part of the Steelers ’07 draft reclamation project. Spaeth was lost for most of the year with a Lisfranc injury, but his return saw Le’Veon Bell rush for his first 100 yard game. Hardly an accident.

Filling out the bench the Steelers have David Paulson and Michael Palmer. Paulson had a strong rookie year in 2012 followed by a very unlucky ’13, where he struggled in the blocking game and his most memorable catch ended in a fumble. The Steelers picked Palmer up as a training camp cast off and thought enough of him to bring him back to camp.

  • Taken at face value, the Steelers need at tight end is very scant.
steelers 2014 nfl draft need scale ratings priorities tight end

Certainly, the team would look to add depth late, if a quality player made himself available, but the Steelers have no pressing need at tight end.

  • But that wouldn’t and shouldn’t stop the Steelers from taking a tight end early.

Both ESPN’s Scott Brown and The Irwin Observer-Reporter’s Dale Lolley have linked the Steelers to North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron. Ebron stands 6’4” and weighs in at 250 and has excellent speed. The Steelers are looking to boost their depth at receiver the distinction between receivers and tight ends is quickly blurring in the NFL.

  • Steelers need at Tight End in the 2014 NFL Draft:  Low- moderate.
However, Ebron is projected to be a mid-teens pick, and the Steelers are picking 15th. If he’s the best player on the board the Steelers might be wise to pick him

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Steelers Resign Palmer, Chris Owens, Legarrette Blount Visit South Side

In the same week that they resigned Guy Whimper, the Pittsburgh Steelers made another seemingly ho-hum free agent resigning when they inked Michael Palmer to a one year deal.

The Steelers brought Palmer to Pittsburgh during 2013 training camp with Heath Miller still recovering from his ACL injury, and after Matt Spaeth injured his Lisfranc.

  • Michael Palmer is listed as having appeared in all 16 games last season for the Steelers, but he only made 1 catch.

Palmer at this point provides depth that was depleted with David Johnson’s departure to San Diego. And Palmer is by no means assured a roster spot. At this point he looks to compete with David Paulson for the third tight end slot, although the Steelers could select a rookie in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Owens, Blount Visit South Side

The Steelers also entertained two more visitors on the South Side last week. Veteran defensive back Chris Owens was in for a work out. Ownens entered the league as a third round draft pick by Atlanta, being taken in the same draft as Keenan Lewis, and has also played with the Dolphins and Browns.

LeGarrette Blount also worked out with the Steelers. As Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain points out, Blount while a good player is not a good fit for the Steelers both because the Steelers are only looking for a back up for Le’Veon Bell, and because he has a well-defined role in New England.

Still, Pittsburgh didn’t get a shot at James Starks, Maurice Jones-Drew’s asking price is too high, and the Steelers need a depth in the backfield.

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3 Steelers with Something to Prove in the Last 3 Weeks

The 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers have about a good of a chance of making the NFL playoffs as you or I do have landing a seat on the first manned mission to Mars….  Mike Tomlin has vowed to fight on nonetheless, which is a good decision.

  • But the decision does carry certain downsides for a couple of players….

Evaluating talent is one of the more difficult tasks that any NFL coach or General Manager must make. There are certain quantifiables, countables, and intangibles that must be taken into consideration, compared, and weighed against team needs.

An NFL coach or GM has to weigh all of these factors when looking at rookies which is hard enough.

  • Then they’ve got to take one more factor into consideration which gums up the works considerably:  Potential.

Potential makes this job all the more challenging, because it involves speculation. “Ok, this guy doesn’t have what it takes now, but I’m betting he will later.” The story of former Steelers and current Bengals Linebacker James Harrison is well known. Harrison was signed and released at least a half dozen times. Clearly Harrison didn’t have “it” in 2002 and 2003, yet he had enough potential for coaches to continue calling him back.

Potential is fine, but there comes a time in every young players career where coaches stop measuring potential and turn an eye towards production. As the Steelers head into the final three game stretch of 2013, there are 3 players who most certainly need to be about the business of transforming potential into production.

The Future is Now for these 3 Young Steelers

David Paulson
Paulson of course joined the Steelers as one of three tight ends taken in the 2012 NFL Draft. And although only a rookie, Paulson began working himself into the roster, and flashed “potential” as a competent pass catching NFL Tight End, finishing the season with 7 catches.

Injuries to Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth allowed Paulson to start the season as the team’s number two tight end. Paulson was clearly not up to the task. He did continue to show himself as a threat in the passing game, but had that critical fumble vs. Cincinnati.

  • And Paulson’s blocking ability has been woeful at best. 

Even before Matt Spaeth’s return, Paulson has been invisible in the Steelers offense. Suffice to say, during these last three games he needs to make the “P” stand for production.

Robert Golden
Beelieve it or not, deep in the bowels of the internet, there was talk that if the development of Robert Golden and Shamarko Thomas had been strong enough in Latrobe, that the Steelers would actually part ways with veteran safety Ryan Clark.

Clearly that did not happen. And that in and of itself is no net knock on Golden. Neither is the fact that Thomas has gotten preference over Golden. But the Steelers were big on Golden in 2012 and had high hopes for him in 2013. But this fact is more damming – The Steelers resigned Will Allen at their first opportunity, and have relied on him during Shamarko Thomas’ injury rather than depend on Golden.

With Ryan Clark probably won’t be back in 2014 and Troy Polamalu might not either. The Steelers will select a safety somewhere in the 2014 NFL Draft. Golden needs to setup it up now, lest management decide to make safety a premium pick.

Chris Carter
During training camp in 2011, Pittsburgh Post Gazette writer Gerry Dulac went out on a limb and said that Chris Carter could end up being a the steal of the 2011 NFL Draft.

That was 3 full seasons ago, and Steelers Nation is still waiting for Carter to develop. Carter got a shot at starting at outside linebacker in 2012 when Harrison and Jason Worilds were injured and he did not capitalize on the opportunity.

  • This year Carter has been more invisible, not only on defense, but also on special teams.

It may be too late for Carter to secure a future with the Pittsburgh Steelers, regardless of what he does in these last three games, and regardless of decisions management makes about LaMarr Woodley, Worilds, and Jarvis Jones.

But if Carter makes the field, he’ll be playing for an invitation to an NFL Training Camp some where.

The ironic thing is that each of these players has seen their role limited or reduced in 2013. They may get few if any chances in the final three weeks. But all of them need to take full advantage should those opportunities come.

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